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NZ Should Act Against Fishing Subsidies Scam

Media Release

1 November 2001

NZ Should Act Against Fishing Subsidies Scam - Peters

“New Zealand should be taking strong-armed action against a recently revealed scam of massive subsidies being paid to the fishing industry world-wide,” says New Zealand First Leader, Winston Peters.

“A World Wildlife Fund report has revealed subsidies to the fishing industry amount to at least US$15 billion per year, or roughly 20 percent of the total landed value of the world’s commercial fish catch. Misguided fishing subsidies are widely considered to contribute to the depletion of the world’s fish stocks, 60 percent of which are currently overfished or on the brink of being overfished.

“Mr Peters said the report showed that the ideal of free trade was myth while countries indulged in such handouts and that subsidies only sustained further plundering of resources.

“These massive subsidies on fishing fleets around the world are propping up fishing on stocks already severely over-fished,” he said.

“Mr Peters called on the New Zealand Government to ban from New Zealand fisheries, any foreign fishing boats from countries that subsidised commercial fishing effort.

“Indeed, given this latest information, it’s a strong argument that New Zealand has been both naïve and foolish to allow any foreign fishing of our fisheries.”

“Mr Peters said the subsidy scam was ironic in view of the Minister of Agriculture and Trade and the Seafood Council pushing Canada’s case to import farmed trout under supposed WTO obligations.

“Both the Minister, the Minister of Fisheries and the Seafood Council should be protecting New Zealand’s fisheries from exploitation by these subsidised fishery operations. It’s odds on Canada in view of its subsidies to farmers is likely to be subsidising its fishing fleets and even trout farms,” he said.


“The WWF has said the handouts so far revealed may just be the tip of the hidden fishing subsidies iceberg. The WWF study revealed that governments have officially reported subsidies up to US$13 billion per year. However, WWF found that these numbers under-report the actual level of global fishing subsidies by a wide margin and that each year government reporting has shown dramatic inconsistencies. The WWF study demonstrates that the actual level of subsidisation must be at least US$15 billion, and could be substantially higher.

“WWF attributes government underreporting to a combination of carelessness and purposeful obfuscation.”

“Moreover, the WWF report gave detailed new evidence that governments were routinely violating legal obligations imposed by the WTO requiring countries to provide data about their subsidy programmes. According to the authors, governments all but ignored World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules designed to ensure the public is informed and subsidies were not kept secret.

“WWF’s report comes shortly before a major WTO meeting this coming November – the first ministerial meeting at the WTO since the 1999 debacle in Seattle.

“The political question remains whether the WTO will deal with the problem to promote sustainable use of the Earth’s natural resources such as fisheries,” said Mr Peters.

“Failure to do so amounts to the WTO ignoring its own charter and further fuelling public suspicion and mistrust in the institution and the ideology of free trade that the Business Roundtable and Roger-gnomes promote,” said Mr Peters.


ENDS

FISHING SUBSIDIES MASSIVE SAY WWF

Government fishing subsidies amount to billions of dollars more than previously proven, according to new figures recently released by the conservation organisation of World Wildlife Fund.

A new WWF report, ‘Hard Facts, Hidden Problems: A Review of Current Data on Fishing Subsidies,’ for the first time offers hard evidence that nearly one US dollar in five earned by the fishing industry comes from government handouts.

Putting to rest years of debate over vague estimates, the report confirms that subsidies to the fishing industry amount to at least US$15 billion per year, or roughly 20 percent of the total landed value of the world’s commercial fish catch. Misguided fishing subsidies are widely considered to contribute to the depletion of the world’s fish stocks, 60 percent of which are currently overfished or on the brink of being overfished.

The report provides the most comprehensive collection and critical review of government data on fishing subsidies published to date.

“This report should end any doubt that subsidies to the fishing sector are truly massive,” said David Schorr, Director of WWF’s Sustainable Commerce Programme. “Numbers provided by governments themselves now prove the scale of the problem.” Schorr adds that what the public sees is just the tip of the hidden fishing subsidies iceberg.

The WWF study reveals that governments have officially reported subsidies up to US$13 billion per year. But WWF finds that these numbers underreport the actual level of global fishing subsidies by a wide margin, and that each year government reporting has shown dramatic inconsistencies. The WWF study demonstrates that the actual level of subsidisation must be at least US$15 billion, and could be substantially higher. WWF attributes government underreporting to a combination of carelessness and purposeful obfuscation.

Moreover, the WWF report gives detailed new evidence that governments are routinely violating legal obligations imposed by the WTO requiring countries to provide data about their subsidy programmes. According to Schorr, governments all but ignore World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules designed to ensure the public is informed and subsidies are not kept secret.

WWF’s report comes shortly before a major WTO meeting this coming November – the first ministerial meeting at the WTO since the 1999 debacle in Seattle. Since 1998, a growing list of governments – with strong leadership from Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines and the United States – have brought pressure for the WTO to open negotiations on fishing subsidies. But the willingness of the WTO as a whole to move forward remains uncertain. WWF calls on governments to take prompt action to disclose, reduce, and reform fishing subsidies, and WWF emphasises the need for new WTO disciplines. The launch of negotiations on fishing subsidies top the list of WWF’s demands for the upcoming WTO ministerial, which also includes calls for clarifying the WTO’s respect for international environmental treaties and refraining from launching negotiations on investment.

The political question remains whether WTO members will seize a real opportunity to commit themselves even to simple and practical steps to ensure that the WTO develops trade rules in a manner that promotes equity and sustainable use of the Earth’s natural resources,” said Aimee Gonzales, Senior Policy Adviser of the Trade Unit at WWF International.

“Failure to do so at the ministerial amounts to the WTO ignoring its own charter and further fuelling public suspicion and mistrust in the institution.”


ENDS

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